It’s easy to make progress in the gym when you’re new to weight training. Every week your strength will increase, you’ll add more weight to the bar, and your body will begin to look and feel better.
But sooner rather than later, your newbie gains will slow to a halt. You’ll hit a plateau. And you’ll need to rethink your training approach so you can continue to make gains and achieve your fitness goals.
The best way to always make progress in the gym is through progressive overload. Progressive overload is the gradual increase in the volume, intensity, frequency, or time of your workouts.
Stated more simply, to make consistent gains in the gym you need to force your body to work a little harder today than it did yesterday. You can’t keep doing the same old routine with the same old weights for the same old reps and expect to make new gains.
Now, let’s go over the 5 most effective ways to incorporate progressive overload into your workouts and ensure you consistently make progress in the gym.
1. Add Weight To Your Exercises
Adding weight to the exercises in your current workout routine is the first way to make progress in the gym.
Even adding as little as 5 pounds more weight to each of your exercises will make a big difference in the long run.
There are several ways to implement this approach but the most common way is to add more weight to each set and then try to hit the same number of reps.
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say your last squat workout looked like this:
- Set 1: 185 x 10
- Set 2: 205 x 10
- Set 3: 225 x 10
For your next squat workout, add 5 pounds to each set of 10 reps.
Can’t hit 10 reps for all three sets? No problem. Do as many as you can. Your body will still be forced to grow and develop strength due to the increased weight. Once you can hit 10 reps for each set, you can repeat the process with more weight.
2. Increase The Number Of Reps
The second way to keep making progress in the gym is to increase the number of reps you perform for each exercise, while keeping the weight the same.
The easiest way to use this technique is to add one more rep to each set.
Let’s say your last bench press routine looked like this:
- Set 1: 165 x 10
- Set 2: 185 x 8
- Set 3: 205 x 6
During your next bench press session, use the same weight and try to hit 11, 9, and 7 reps, respectively.
If you fail to meet these reps just keep trying until you can get them all. Once you can, go ahead and increase the reps again or use another one of the 5 approaches to keep making gains in the gym.
3. Increase The Number Of Sets
Increasing the number of sets for a particular exercise is the third way to overcome a plateau and stay on track at the gym.
For this approach, you keep the weight and reps the same and add one set to your total.
For example, let’s assume your last session of deadlifts went like this:
- Set 1: 185 x 8
- Set 2: 205 x 6
- Set 3: 225 x 4
- Set 4: 245 x 2
- Set 5: 245 x 2
You’d keep everything the same in your next session but add a sixth set of 245 x 2 at the end.
If you’re able to complete this extra set on your first try, awesome. Add another set next week. If not, try again the following week.
4. Decrease The Rest Period Between Sets
The fourth way to incorporate progressive overload into your gym routine is to decrease the amount of time you rest between sets.
Here, you keep the weight, reps, and sets the same, and just decrease the rest period between sets.
So, let’s say you’re currently doing 3 sets of seated cable rows with 2-minute breaks between each set. In your next session, drop down to 1.5-minute breaks between sets while using the same weight and reps.
By giving yourself less recovery time between sets you increase the difficulty of the exercise which, in turn, will help you make further progress at the gym.
5. Do Two Exercises In A Row Without Resting (Supersets)
Performing two exercises in a row without resting, otherwise known as supersets, is the fifth way to ensure you always make progress in the gym.
Supersets can be divided into two categories: agonist supersets and antagonist supersets.
Agonist supersets consist of two exercises performed back-to-back that target the same muscle groups, like chest and triceps, or back and biceps.
Here are two examples of agonist supersets:
- Close-grip bench press: 3 x 8
- Tricep pushdowns: 3 x 12
- Lat pull downs: 3 x 8
- Dumbbell curls: 3 x 12
Antagonist supersets, on the other hand, consist of two exercises performed back-to-back that target opposing muscle groups, like chest and back, or biceps and triceps.
Here are two examples of antagonist supersets:
- Incline bench press: 3 x 10
- Barbell rows: 3 x 10
- Hammer curls: 3 x 10
- Weighted dips: 3 x 10
Both agonist and antagonist supersets are highly effective at ramping up the intensity of your workouts. They will also help you achieve increased cardiovascular endurance due to the lack of rest between exercises.
Final Thoughts On How To Consistently Make Progress In The Gym
Half the battle of achieving all the benefits that working out provides is to just show up at the gym. But to make consistent progress in the gym for the long term you need to do more than show up. You need to approach your workouts intelligently by incorporating the principle of progressive overload.
As you’ve seen in this post, the best way to incorporate progressive overload is by adding weight to your exercises, adding reps, adding sets, decreasing time between sets, and supersets.
So the next time you hit a plateau in the gym, give one of these 5 approaches a shot and let me know how they work for you.
All the best,